Screech! The terrifying sound of metal being twisted and torn. We jerk round, far too late, the monster has broken through the barrier. The blazing eyes of the beast blind us. I hear my friend’s yell. “Look out, Sophie.” Her violent thrust throws me against the side wall and I fall. Even as I do there is a thud and I see her somersault through the air before crashing down to the ground, whimpering. I scream as the beast’s claw rakes my body. I try to reach her but the beast comes back, its eyes now a fiery red. With another thud it runs over her. Her moans die and I scream again as the monster crushes my leg. Darkness. I never feel the claw gouge my body again.
My screams bring my brothers to my bedside. Gradually I hear their soothing words. “Sis, Sis. It’s OK. It’s all right. You’re safe. You’re awake.”
I have two brothers, both older than me. For years they had been little more than irritating siblings, always knowing better how things should be. Until my fifteenth birthday that is. Twelve months ago, now.
Tomorrow I will be sixteen and, despite the efforts of the prosecution team, I will celebrate my birthday giving evidence in court against the bastard who killed my friend and caused me to lose my leg. They had tried to get an adjournment arguing that the emotional trauma of those events last year would be far worse for me. Somehow the defence have managed to convince the judge that the defendant’s own trauma should not be ignored.
There was a time when I would have found it difficult to believe that I could hate anyone. That changed on that fateful evening.
It was my fifteenth birthday and two of my friends claimed me for the evening taking me to the local ten-pin bowling alley to celebrate.
As we got ready to leave and walk home an older man from a group that had heckled us earlier in the evening, our bowling wasn’t great, came across. To our astonishment and fear he pushed Dawn against the wall trying to force a kiss and rubbing at her breasts. She pushed him away kicking out against his groin while Chrissie and I grabbed him by the arms and pulled him off her so hard that he fell backwards landing on his backside.
I remember the laughter of his mates but that was overshadowed by his snarling threat as he regained his feet and tried to attack Dawn, this time with his fists.
Fortunately, the centre’s security reached him and having pulled him away threw him and his mates out. We waited for a few minutes before leaving, keeping a couple of police officers between us and them as we looked to walk up to catch our buses. Chrissie reached her stop first and was able to board a waiting bus while Dawn and I turned up a pedestrianised arcade, towards our own stop.
We were halfway along when there was an horrendous crash, and scraping sound, as a car smashed its way through the barriers. We looked back in amazement as the headlights lit up the street and the car, trailing debris, accelerated towards us. Dawn reacted first pushing me to one side as she, too, tried to dodge the vehicle without success. Even as I fell, I knew she had been hit while I was dragged aside by the edge of the front wing which raked across my side and leg. The pain was such that my scream died as I lost consciousness. Dawn had been hit full-on and run over as the car crushed her. As if that was not enough, I learned later, the driver had reversed and run over us again, killing her and catching my leg, severing it at the knee.
To this day I do not know why I did not die too. Even the doctors told my parents not to get their hopes up too high. Despite the miraculous efforts of the paramedic who was the first responder, I had lost large amounts of blood and my leg, which had been crushed beyond any possibility of repair. I was in surgery for more than six hours as they fought to save my life.
Afterwards they told me that police cars had blocked the other end of the street and arrested the driver who, though unhurt, was trapped by the damage caused to his car. I would have hoped he might have been subdued by his actions but I heard that all he said was “They had it coming to them, the bitches.”
After forensics had confirmed the details and eye witnesses had been interviewed, the driver was charged with a series of offences up to and including murder.
Eventually I was deemed fit enough to be measured for an artificial leg. The leg would be matched to my other leg to help me with my balance when I was finally able to walk again.
Walk again! I’ve lost my leg I cried to myself as I sat by my hospital bed. That was what hurt most. The two major scars that crossed my body, one on the back, the other on the front, where the car’s wing had twice scythed across it had healed as far as the medical teams could manage. Even the cosmetic specialists had been unable to completely hide the damage but they would be hidden by my clothes. I do not think that I had any thoughts as to how they might affect my future, not then anyway.
Then I found out that Dawn’s funeral, much delayed by the coroner’s court and other legal processes, was to take place. I had four days. Maybe that was the kick up my rear end I needed. I was determined that I would attend it and I made life hell for the team on the prosthetic rehabilitation unit until they completed their work and fitted me with the first, temporary, limb.
My Mum and Dad were not really in favour of my going to the funeral but, to be honest, I gave them no choice. Dawn had saved my life and, despite their own grief, her parents had visited me while I was still in recovery. I had told them how I wished things were different. I would have swapped places if I could. Her father was quite blunt.
“You must not think that way. We know what good friends you were and we know that, if you could have saved her, you would have. The best thanks you can give her is to make a full recovery and get back out playing that silly game of yours.”
He grinned suddenly at my look of horror. “Sorry, Sophie, I know what golf means to you and it isn’t really silly, just not for us. Go out there and sock it to them, girl.” He leaned forward and gave me a gentle hug. “Do it for our girl, lass. That is what she would have wanted. She told us how good you are. It’ll be a long road back but I’m sure you can make it.”
The church was crowded. Family, friends and schoolfriends including several I would not have expected to be there. Maybe there had been a three-line-whip as they call it. I don’t know and never asked. It seemed wrong to do so. As I reached the doors, I passed the crutches to my Dad, giving him no choice but to carry them. The walk was slow and painful, I was still not ready to do without support but there was no way I was going to admit it.
The vicar looked down the aisle to this figure creeping towards the front and was not, I think, very amused by the ripple of noise that happened as people recognised me and realised that I was walking.
Eventually I reached the front of the church. Before I sat, I limped over to the vicar who I didn’t know, my family were not avid churchgoers, and asked that I be allowed a few words, very few I promised. He seemed a little put out by an apparent stranger making such a request, especially one who had already caused a certain amount of disturbance. Only when I explained who I was did he nod and give a gentle smile.
With that I managed to sit two rows back as members of Dawn’s family made room, nudged by Chrissie. The relief to be able to sit was immense such that I found it difficult to hide it. Even as I did so, the church organ changed its melodious background sound to the funeral march and the coffin, followed by Dawn’s Mum, Dad, and her brother, entered the church. The service was not long, though I refrained from standing for the various hymns.
After the formalities and eulogies were almost complete the vicar beckoned me forward without a word. I had had time to think about what I wanted to say but nearly froze once I reached the lectern. For a long minute I simply stood saying nothing before.
“I was Dawn’s friend. She was my best friend. I am standing here because and, with apologies to the wonderful medical teams at the hospital, only because of her. I wish I could change that. All I can do is to do my best to show that her sacrifice was worth it. That will be my goal from now on. You all know the saying that there is no greater love a person can show than to give their life that their friend might live. Dawn was that person and I am better for having known her.”